We recently celebrated two milestone birthdays; my daughter's and mine. As we are now, both, women of a certain age, I won't reveal the numbers. Because they don't matter. What does matter are the memories that come with each year of a richly lived life.

I have many times questioned whether that is something I have ever done. But thankfully, due to the circle of extraordinary people who inexplicably allow me to be their friend, I am richly blessed.

Do I have children of my own? No. But my best friend of 38 years graciously has allowed me to be "Mommy #2" to her two kids, since they were born. We've celebrated graduations from kindergarten through college, birthdays, holidays, births of children and weddings. We've struggled through the loss of loved ones and painful life situations, together.

The truth of the matter is, within my small ensemble of close friends, I've had the honor of being a part of watching all of their children transition through the important and not-so-important moments in life, in my role as "Auntie" Patty.

And, they have been there for me when life has been astoundingly unkind or when it has been wondrously fine. My friends bewilder me with their graciousness, hospitality, unselfishness, patience and understanding. They have taught me about unconditional love.

Last night, this bunch of remarkable people threw me a surprise birthday party. I even got to do something I have rarely been able to do; celebrate my birthday with "my" kids.

This is due to the fact that I normally head to Montana (my birthplace) over my birthday. The theory is, that this has slowed the aging process and because I convinced Leah and Mikey (my kids) a long time ago, that I've been 12 forever, it seems to have worked.

I only hope that someday I will be able to add as much to my friends' lives as they have to mine. At least this is something I plan to strive for. That, and to remember to say thank you as often as possible to these exceptional people.

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